European Commission is “very much listening” to Catalans but avoids commenting on turnout and results
The Spokesperson for the European Commission, Pia Ahrenkilde, was asked about Catalonia’s results from Sunday’s European Parliament elections. Ahrenkilde stated that “the EU is very much listening” to what is going on, but refused to make specific comments on “any individual national result”. She went on to say that, considering the results in the EU overall, “there is a lot of reflection to do by all European leaders and by all national leaders”. Turnout in Catalonia increased significantly, fuelled by the self-determination debate, going from 36.9% to 47.4%, whereas it dropped in most of Spain. Furthermore, self-determination parties won the elections in Catalonia, occupying 1st, 2nd and 4th position and obtaining more than 60% of the vote. In addition, the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) won an election in Catalonia for the first time, obtaining 23.7% of the vote.
Brussels (ACN).- On Monday, the day after the European Elections Night, the Spokesperson for the European Commission Pia Ahrenkilde was asked about Catalonia’s turnout and results at the daily midday press conference. Ahrenkilde stated that “the EU is very much listening” to what is going on but refused to make specific comments on “any individual national result”. She went on to say that, considering the overall results in the EU, “there is a lot of reflection to do by all European leaders and by all national leaders”. Turnout in Catalonia increased significantly, fuelled by the self-determination debate, going from 36.9% in 2009 to 47.4%, while it dropped in many Spanish regions. Furthermore, self-determination parties won the elections in Catalonia, taking 1st, 2nd and 4th position and receiving more than 60% of the vote. In addition, for the first time since the 1930s, the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) won an election in Catalonia, obtaining 23.7% of the vote.
Pia Ahrenkilde was once again asked about Catalonia in the European Commission midday briefing, the daily press conference taking place at noon each day. However, this briefing was particularly important, since it was the first press conference after the results of the 2014 European Parliament elections were released on Sunday evening. Once again Ahrenkilde had to face a question regarding Catalonia’s self-determination and potential independence from Spain. This came after Catalan voters increased their involvement in the elections by significantly increasing their turnout and, on top of this, voting mostly for pro-self-determination parties, which won the elections in Catalonia by a clear margin. Indeed, political parties supporting self-determination, as well as civil society organisations supporting independence, had during the past week asked voters to get particularly involved in last Sunday’s elections in order to increase turnout and send a message to the EU: Catalans want to vote.
Catalans sent a triple message to the EU
This would be a triple message. Firstly, that Catalans are committed to the European integration project and want to participate in its consolidation. Secondly, Catalans want to be able to decide on their own collective future by holding a free and democratic self-determination vote. Thirdly, Catalans are European citizens and want to remain within the EU in case of independence. This is how last night’s results have been interpreted by almost all media and analysts from Catalonia.
The EU is listening, but it says nothing…
Whilst Ahrenkilde did not wish to make specific comments on what happened in Catalonia, she did say that “the EU is very much listening”. However, she added that “all the Member States as well as the European institutions […] are not going to go into any individual national result in our response today”. According to Ahrenkilde, discussing what EU citizens have voted in each Member State in the European parliamentary elections was not the European Commission’s “role” in this Monday’s press conference.
Ahrenkilde therefore continued to assess the results in more general and broad terms, instead of being specific and risk offending a Member State government. In this vein, she said that “the differences […] in terms of the election results, which differ between Member States” are also linked to “the interplay between national and European factors”. The results according to Ahrenkilde, “do reflect this mix [and show] that we have a pan-European political debate with specific national agendas”. At this point, she wanted to emphasise that this fact deserves “a lot of reflection to do by all European leaders and by all national leaders”. Yet, she avoided going into specifics, leaving the outcome of all European leaders’ reflections for another occasion, and in regard to the specific national agendas of certain EU territories such as Catalonia and how they are linked to broader European issues.
Therefore, according to Ahrenkilde, the EU listens to Catalans, “all EU leaders” will have to think about it and Catalans will have to wait for the answer on another occasion, while the independence consultation vote scheduled for the 9th of November fast approaches. In fact, Catalans will have to wait for another day to know what the EU institutions think about Catalonia’s results, despite the fact that the ballot boxes filled on the 25th of May were the clearest and most democratic way to express their views prior to the November independence vote itself.